When the Nazi’s came to power they looted art from Jews within Germany and from people residing in every country they invaded. It was not only a matter of stealing from Jews who were being taken to internment camps but also stealing from anyone who might possess art that was considered worthy of being in Hitler’s museum. Some of the art was stolen in order to be destroyed and erase traces of cultures that the Nazis found to be unworthy.
While it has become the stuff of Hollywood storytelling that a group of men desperately tried to find and save the treasures that were stolen by the Nazis, they were not successful in finding all of them. Today there are an estimated 10,000 pieces of art stolen by the Nazis that have yet to be recovered. Many believe that they have been destroyed as part of Hitler’s last decree to destroy all the art the Nazis had stolen in order to keep the Allies from recovering the treasures.
Here are the some of the most important pieces of art whose fate is still unknown.
Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael
This painting is by far one of the most well-known to have gone missing during World War II and Poland considers it to be the most important work of art taken from their country. It was painted by Raphael around 1513 and while some historians believe it to be a self-portrait, the identity of the main in the painting had not been confirmed. The painting features elements that focus on the balance of Heaven and Earth and humanizing the nobleman. There is nothing to indicate the profession of the man in the painting, which does not help with the struggle to identify the subject.
The painting was housed at the Czartoryski Museum in Poland. As the Nazis advanced, Prince Augustyn Jozef Czartoryski attempted to save some of the paintings by taking them from the museum and hiding them. Portrait of a Young Man was one such painting. He hid the paintings at a home in Sieniawa but they were eventually found by the Gestapo under the orders of Hans Frank. Hans Frank ordered this painting to be taken to his home in Krakow, and then it was later shipped to Berlin to be part of Hitler’s museum.
In January 1945, Hans Frank took the painting back to Krakow in order to decorate Wawel Castle. This is the last place the painting was seen. In February 1945, Krakow was evacuated ahead of a Russian offensive and Hans Frank took the painting to his own villa in Neuhaus am Schliersee. However, when he was arrested on May 8th, 1945 the painting was not among those recovered from his home. He was killed for his crimes before ever revealing the location of the Raphael.
If the painting were to be found today, it’s value is estimated at $100 million.